We’re giving terrorists what they want


8:58 am - January 5th 2010

by Claude Carpentieri    


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Something doesn’t quite add up over the security panic that followed last week’s failed terror attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner.

Britain has joined the US and other countries in toughening up checks at airports. Full body scanners, hand luggage checks and no toilet access an hour before landing are amongst some of the measures introduced to tame the new wave of psychosis that is hitting the western world.

Now. Let’s say that your house was broken into once and, hypothetically, you decided to take extra security measures to protect it. Iron bars on the bedroom window, armoured glass fitted with welded steel hinges, a special 24/7 CCTV guarding the room and a 10st stainless steel padlock to round it all off, are all concrete measures that would set your mind at rest.

However, with the initial excitement out of the way comes the realisation that all of the above may just be an expensively futile exercise. The bedroom may be safer than a fortress, but front door, living room, kitchen and all other entry points are as vulnerable as they were before.

Similarly, one wonders whether the current security theatre is being a little bit crook-eyed. You may now have to have your anus x-rayed if you’re boarding a flight, but absolutely anything and anyone is free to stroll on and off any train or hop around the tube network (in London alone there’s a daily ridership of around 3 million people).

Just look at the records. Sure, the last ten years have seen the bloodiest most traumatic terror attack ever (9/11) alongside a couple of well-publicised attempts coming from the sky (the ‘shoe bomber’ as well as the 2006 Walthamstow plot).

Sadly, however, there’s also been a painful record of terror attacks on metros, buses and trains (Madrid 2004 and London 2005- plus failed attempts) as well as explosions against specifically targeted buildings (i.e. Casablanca in 2003 and Bali twice, in 2002 and 2005).

There’s also a second point. I’m not for a second belittling the scale of what that spoilt fanatical dickhead was doing onboard the Amsterdam-Detroit flight last week. But, bearing in mind that terrorists want to achieve hysteria, panic and mayhem of the largest possible scale, hasn’t the press at large handed it to Al-Quaeda on a tray?

Press blackouts were tried in the past, both in the fight against terrorism in Northern Ireland and at the height of the RAF and Red Brigades’ campaigns in Germany and Italy respectively.

What if governments and security forces around the world set up a concerted plan not to give Al-Quaeda the oxygen of publicity, unless of course there were damage and casualties to report?

Wouldn’t the blackout deal at least a partial blow to the campaign of fear and hatred that the Islamic funda-mentalists have been inflicting upon the world?

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About the author
Claude is a regular contributor, and blogs more regularly at: Hagley Road to Ladywood
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Civil liberties ,Media ,Terrorism

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Reader comments


Perhaps someone who knows a bit more about this than me could clairify something for me. Has the technology caught a terrorist anywhere?

Unfortunately I think we probably are, and would like to think we could have more of a stiff-upper-lip approach.
But governments will always respond on a CYA basis.
Imagine if the unsuccessful pants bomber had been blacked-out, but a successful attack had followed a few days later.
The first attempt would almost certainly be revealed and there would (rightly or wrongly) be hell to pay.
I am not looking forward to my next flight to the US.

You can’t put security on train/tube stations, it would inconvenience the regular commuters too much. They’re more scary than any terrorist in the grand scheme of things.

Claude, you miss the point that western governments believe it is in their short-term political interest to stoke up fear amongst the population and hatred against Muslims: it gives the people someone other than the government to blame for their problems.

5. Alisdair Cameron

@ Lee Griffin (3)

You can’t put security on train/tube stations

Funny that at many stations outside of London some security kit is being installed (eg already in place at Newcastle central, waiting to go live). Of course that’s for ‘protection of revenue’ (or traincos annexing station space by another interpretation: public space is disappearing). Don’t imagine that inconveniencing commuters will be a factor that stops fuckwittery. The best response to terror threats is to carry on regardless, not cower, quake or try and restrict everyone’s life in an attempt to lock-down all public spaces, a pursuit that is both hugely expensive and doomed to failure.

5. I don’t disagree, but the reality in this country is that very many things regarding public transport happen in a way not to inconvenience season pass holders.

7. Alisdair Cameron

@ Lee. Maybe in London, but season pass holders elsewhere can be subjected to all manners of hindrances, as the installation of all this new kit demonstrates

You can’t put security on train/tube stations, it would inconvenience the regular commuters too much. They’re more scary than any terrorist in the grand scheme of things.

Quite, and for the same reason we won’t introduce El Al’s security procedures for all flights – jebus they’re even talking about relaxing certain aspects of the new security measures at busy periods. All this despite security being the priority (according to one Gordon Brown, PM).

The problem is that the issue of terrorism and security gives the govenment a mandate to impose whatever restrictions it wishes on how airports are run.

Documents please.
Wait in that queue.
Take you shoes off.
I’ll take your shampoo.
Bend over.

In Manchester airport you have to show your boarding pass to buy a newspaper.

Why?

But we cannot ask because the army of uniformed drones have the ultimate answer, an answer that precludes all argument- it is to stop us being blown to smithereens and that has got to be a good thing doesn’t it?

And the government quite likes using the threat of death because they know that once people have become accustomed to their behaviour being controlled and their freedom curtailed in one area, they become more accepting of the same degree of curtailment in various other scenarios.

And they like to control because that allows them to plan more efficiently.

When you look at the numbers of casualties of terrorism in the UK over the last fifty years it is clear that the problem is far less less worrysome than lightning. They wouldn’t allow it but give me a choice to fly from a security free airport and I’d take my chances every time.

Because life is too short as it is………….

#3
You can’t put security on train/tube stations, it would inconvenience the regular commuters too much
Of course. But I thought security uber alles is what governments was the imperative?

And, touching wood and any other material at hand, aren’t technically water-tight airports simply going to shift murderous attention towards other means of transport? I just don’t get it.

[And this is without mentioning a point laready made elsewhere…that in spite of a spectacular security circus a known terror suspect (whose dad, no less, alerted the autorities!) was allowed to board a plane. So what good is to ask an 80-year-old lady to ditch her bottle of cologne if ineptitude reigns supreme nonetheless?].

11. Shatterface

‘They wouldn’t allow it but give me a choice to fly from a security free airport and I’d take my chances every time.’

Me too. Let those who want 100% safety stand in line for hours on end – and pay extra for the privilage.

Best of all, these ‘safe’ flights would act as a honeypot for would-be bombers making those of us willing to take the risk that much safer!

But seriously – press blackouts? Terrorism might rely on the media for publicity but do you honestly think that the rumours and word-of-mouth coverage that would take it’s place would be LESS likely to exaggerate the dangers? Do Iraqis and Afghanis live in blissful ignorance of terrorism within their own countries or does ignorance and hysteria just give rise to reprisals?

Also, what about the Internet or Twitter – ban them too?

Most of what you say makes a lot of sense. Not sure about press blackouts, however. The reporting could just be more balanced. For instance I still haven’t seen a report of how viable the explosive and the chosen method of detonation was. It would be good to remind us all, now and again, how many flights successfully fly without having any problems like passengers’ pants going on fire.

13. Shatterface

Air travel is STILL an increadibly safe for of travel even without all the security theatrics.

It’s important for people to grasp the statistics – but it’s also important to have a grown-up recognition of the limits to which governments can be held responsiblegfir the actions of lunatics.

Many of those complaining of over-caution on behalf of the government would be among the first to criticise them for not doing enough if an attack does happen.

The reason for safety alterts is so that the government can claim it did everything it could if another attack occurs.

No government would dare repeal precautions once in place as it is almost inevitable that an attack will succeed one day and any government which has lessened security systems will be crucified.

Shatterface @ 13,

As far as I can tell, airport security of the stop and search, scanning variety, has not caught a single terrorist. Certainly, it may have deterred hundreds of them. That was why I asked if anyone knew otherwise.

I think we are possibly at the point of diminishing returns at the passenger embarkation stage.

15. Charlieman

@12 Andy: “For instance I still haven’t seen a report of how viable the explosive and the chosen method of detonation was.”

Likewise, I have not read any really good reports about the alleged knicker bomber’s methodology. Some reports mentioned PETN, a fairly volatile explosive that is used in detonators. Alas, there is no info on whether it may have been home made or commercially manufactured.

Whatever the source, a good way to ignite PETN would be a few match heads and a flame. Not a big bang when cushioned by a human body but enough to harm an aircraft.

IF, and that is a big IF, the substance was PETN, there are few excuses. An airport dog should have spotted it, had the alleged bomber walk by. A bomb sniffing machine should have spotted it. The substance is a nitrate; the type of chemical that airports have trained their workers to seek for 30 years.

16. Charlieman

Anyone who has travelled on the Spanish equivalent of a UK intercity train will have endured luggage scanning. Contrary to the Spanish stereotype, they manage this very efficiently.

Unfortunately, the Spanish were looking for Basque terrorists blowing up intercity connections. Islamist terrorists blew up Madrid commuter trains instead.

17. So Much For Subtlety

1. douglas clark – “Perhaps someone who knows a bit more about this than me could clairify something for me. Has the technology caught a terrorist anywhere?”

Nezar Hindawi gave his pregnant Irish girl friend a bag to carry for him to Israel. Containing a bomb set to go off and destroy the plane. It was detected and now Hindawi is doing some serious time in prison.

4. John Booth – “Claude, you miss the point that western governments believe it is in their short-term political interest to stoke up fear amongst the population and hatred against Muslims: it gives the people someone other than the government to blame for their problems.”

I see. It is all a plot is it? So tell me, how is that “blaming Muslim” thing going for the Labour Party? Worked to deflect attention from the Bank Bailout has it?

Almost anything I might say about this post would fall foul of the comments policy but it does make me wonder why this comment itself has not fallen foul of those same policies?

So Much for Subtlety,

Thank you for that. I was unaware of that particular case, which dates back to 1986.

Here is some interesting background on it:

http://tinyurl.com/yglawes


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